Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan get up close and personal with an orc at Courtney Creative

It was all things weird and wonderful as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were introduced to Wellington's thriving arts scene.
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex barely had time to dry themselves off from their rain soaked trip to Abel Tasman National Park before they were due at their next engagement – a visit to Wellington’s Courtney Creative, where they were introduced to some very interesting (and somewhat scary) characters.

Courtney Creative runs programmes for young creative minds to learn film industry skills, and they’d rustled up a selection of their finest talent to mingle with their royal guests. Walking through the door Harry and Meghan were greeted by costumed Vikings and knights, and an orc from Lord of the Rings.

The orc was played by Luke Hawker, 37, a film technician and stuntman from Weta Workshop, who says, “I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to shake their hands. They seemed genuinely scared, but I was very nice.” For the record, they did shake hands.

The royals were particularly impressed by Evans Bay Intermediate student Ruby Acevedo, 12, who had been transformed into a chimp from Planet of the Apes by her father Gino, a creative art director at Weta Digital. Harry came close to her face and asked if he could touch it, which he did.

“It was a very nice experience to meet and talk to them,” Ruby says. “They were everything I expected. Really kind.”

Meghan and Harry meet an orc from Lord of the Rings, 37-year-old Luke Hawker.

Meghan wore a stunning tuxedo dress by Kiwi designer Maggie Marilyn, teamed with a Gillian Anderson coat.

Carleen Murphy, who was dressed up as a red devil for the occasion, says she was waiting for Meghan to mention her past as an actress, but the Duchess was keen to keep the focus on everyone else.

“She was so gracious and let others shine,” she said. “She’s even more beautiful than she is on screen. More lovely. An absolute beauty.”

Lord of the Rings actor Jed Brophy stood beside them dressed as a devil. He told Harry this was the shortest make-up session he’d ever needed and Harry told him he should head out on the town later, which he said he would.

“They’re wonderful people, very warm and genuinely interested,” Jed commented.

Newtown singer Louis Baker, 29, performed his track “Just a Memory” for the royals, who applauded enthusiastically.

“It was such an honour to have an opportunity to play for royalty in my lifetime,” Louis said. “I was nervous — I’m only human! We briefly talked about my music and the album I’ll put out next year. Meghan said I had a great tone to my voice.”

After Harry took a turn on a virtual reality game, which gave him a fright, the royals were presented with a gold, paua and diamond necklace from The Village Goldsmith by orc Luke, who apologised for scaring them earlier.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now in Auckland for the next stop on their whirlwind tour of New Zealand. This morning they will dedicate a 20-hectare area of native bush on Auckland’s North Shore to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy before they head to South Auckland to pay a visit to Pillars, a charity which supports children who have had a parent in prison.

Later this afternoon they will attend a public walkabout at the Viaduct harbour before being the guests of honour at a reception hosted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.

To stay up to date on the royal tour, click here.

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